Body Scanners Accepted By Some Port Columbus Passengers

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This is the first summer travel season where air passengers are having to go through full body scanners. The scanners are designed to protect air travelers but they continue to spur complaints about invasion of privacy, possible health risks and check-in delays. WOSU reports on how passengers at Port Columbus are adjusting.

Susanna Christensen from Baltimore, Ohio, sits with her granddaughter at Port Columbus’s Concourse B. The two are on their way to Phoenix to visit family. This will be the first time either of them has gone through a body scanner.

“It’s for security, and I have no qualms about it whatsoever,” she said.

Until recently, fliers went through metal detectors at security checkpoints, but five scanners have been installed since May.

Five-hundred of these scanners are going in at various airports around the country. The Transportation Security Administration said it’s an effort to catch possible terror threats on commercial flights. TSA said the new technology is safe. Its website said the amount of radiation one would receive through the device at Port Columbus equals to about two minutes of flying on an airplane. Some experts say more studies are needed to determine long-term health risks.

Christensen said she’s not concerned about health risks.

“I would think it would be at levels it wouldn’t be any concern for otherwise they wouldn’t be able to do it,” Christensen said.

And Roger Mast, a frequent flier from Atlanta, says he’s not worried about the radiation either.

“It would be hypocritical if I did because of the time I spend with a laptop in my lap and a cell phone in my ear. So, I can’t imagine that it makes any real difference,” Mast said.

Even though the new scanners – that generate anatomically correct images – are becoming more prominent at airports, fliers have other options. TSA spokesperson Jim Fotenos said they can be patted down then walk through a traditional metal detector.

“There’s signage posted at each check point notifying passengers of their options,” Fotenos said.

Despite the signage, most people WOSU spoke with did not know of the alternative, including Susanna Christensen who said,”I’d rather go through the body scanner instead of someone touching me.” Jeannie Svob from Chicago, who said she’s a frequent flier, did not know she could opt-out from the body scanner either. But in her words, she’s not a “young, pretty girl anymore,” and she’s more concerned about getting on the plane than invasion of her privacy.

“I think I would do whichever is faster. So if it’s the body scanner that gets you through the line faster, I think I’d do that,” Svob said.

That was not the case, though, for Cheryl Sanwon from Toronto. Sanwon refuses to go through body scanners. She said she always opts for what she calls the traditional way – a pat down and the metal detector.

“I find it intrusive, I guess. If I can go the traditional and it’s working, why go for something new that you don’t know the effect on you. I was told it was really safe in terms of radiation, but you’ll never know,” Sanwon said. The scanners reportedly have caused slowdowns in security lines during the summer travel season rush. But Sanwon, who flies a lot, said she has not noticed backups at any airport she’s flown out of.

“It’s not as fast as the traditional one. As how I saw it. Or I’ve seen it. You have to go around, raise your arms. It would take you two more steps than the traditional one. (So a little bit longer, but not enough to hold up the line so you’re late for you flight?) No, that’s not what I’ve seen,” she said. TSA spokesperson Jim Fotenos said the scanners take about 20 seconds. He blamed congestion at security checkpoints on scanning luggage.